Jan 22, 2024

Denver high

The owner of a downtown Denver high-rise apartment building is suing a slew of companies for construction defects after glass panes started crashing from balconies last year.

Real estate investment trust Equity Residential, which purchased the 274-unit Eviva on Cherokee Apartments building in early 2019, filed the lawsuit over the alleged "negligently constructed balcony railing systems" against four parties: real estate developer The Integral Group LLC, commercial construction and architecture company The Beck Group, railing manufacturer and supplier GRECO and fence contractor Metro Fence Company.

"The risk of glass panes falling from the Property's balconies presented an immediate and substantial safety risk to balcony occupants, pedestrians, and property below," according to the lawsuit.

Now, Equity Residential wants a reimbursement of the almost $600,000 it spent "to remedy the poorly constructed balcony railing systems," on top of interest, attorneys’ fees and costs.

The Integral Group sold the complex to Equity Residential, while Beck served as the general contractor, the lawsuit said, and that Greco designed the balcony railing system, and Metro Fence Company installed it.

The legal action follows reports from last August of shattering glass panes at the building at 1250 Cherokee St. But according to the lawsuit filed on May 15, the problems started even earlier.

In February 2022, a glass pane from the fifth-floor balcony tumbled to the street below. Another from the 19th-floor broke months later in July, then a third pane from the 11th-floor fell later that month, the lawsuit said.

Equity Residential spokesperson Marty McKenna declined to comment on Wednesday.

Matt Watkajtys, a tenant at Eviva on Cherokee, celebrated the news of the lawsuit as a win for residents.

"Hopefully, for us, the saga is over. The public safety issue has resolved," he said Wednesday. "For them, it's just beginning."

He described feelings of vindication "since I’ve had managers tell me I broke my own balcony with a bike many a time since my panel dropped."

"It wasn't me. It never was."

On July 26, Denver Community Planning and Development received a complaint about unsafe balcony guard rails, with details included about broken glass panels, spokesperson Amanda Weston said then. An inspector stopped by the apartment complex soon after to meet with property management about getting back in building code compliance.

In August, Equity Residential hired engineering consultant Walker Consultants to investigate the glass pane problem, checking out 10 apartments in the process, the lawsuit said. Defects found included improper bottom channel gasket sealant application, irregular glass infill panel spacing and channel gasket displacement – "likely the result of poor installation," according to the lawsuit.

A scaffolding and netting project was installed to protect passerby and property, according to the lawsuit. Equity Residential highlighted its repairs as adjusting the positioning of the balcony glass lites, replacing glass lites and securing loose glass lites. Glass lites are a term for glass window panes.

Laurin Quiat and Colby Everett of Baker & Hostetler LLP are serving as attorneys for Equity Residential. They didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.

"At this time, it is not appropriate to discuss the lawsuit," Beck spokesperson Crystal Cantu said. "At Beck, we pride ourselves on being great community partners in Denver and our industry."

The other companies involved didn't respond to requests for comment.

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